Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Shekhawati Havelis

Doors signify a transition. They create spaces and differentiate one space from another. As a child, one is always curious about closed doors. Like Alice in Wonderland, one never knows what awaits behind a closed door. In India, doors have been made with fine craftsmanship, and probably the most famous type is that found in the Shekhawati region of Rajasthan.

These doors are part of large "havelis". The doors leading into the outer courtyard are large and heavy, and could sometimes let an elephant in. The outer courtyard would have places for visitors to lounge around, fountains and recessed corners, with decorative "jali" or woven work done on doors and windows.

Motifs were drawn from battles and tales of bravery, legends about lovers, nature, plants and animals, and typical things around the household. Yellow ochre provided the major colour in the palette, with some some brick red, yellow and green pigments.

The doors to the inner courtyard were generally smaller, and more intricately carved. The merchants of Shekhawati who patronized the unknown craftsmen, are to be thanked for not only having got these beautifully carved doors made, but also for taking pride in their "havelis", and preserving these painstakingly.

One also finds similar rich complex motifs painted on the walls and ceilings of these "havelis".

As the merchants of Shekhawati have moved all over the world, some of the "havelis" and the richly crafted doors have fallen into disrepair. Some have found unlikely champions. Artist Nadine Le Prince who traces her ancestry to Jean-Baptiste Le Prince bought one of these, and has restored all the old fresco work, so that the place now looks more like an art gallery!


  1. Really interesting post about doors. It enlightened me to the fact that all these paintings and carving have been something what these people saw and did in their everyday life or the stories they might have heard from their ancestors. Thank you for sharing !